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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It may be for the convenience of the House if I make the following statement.

Hon. Members present for the previous debate on the Bill will recall that the Under-Secretary gave a commitment to make a statement on Third Reading on behalf of the Government in relation to the Bill's compatibility with the European convention on human rights.

A copy of the legal assessment procured by the promoter of the Bill on its compatibility with the ECHR was sent to the Government by the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) on 29 January 2001. The assessment concluded that the Bill is compatible with the ECHR, as has been stated in previous debates on the Bill.

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Having now considered the papers, I can report to the House that I believe that a full assessment of the Bill's compatibility with the ECHR has been undertaken by the City of London corporation and I see no need to dispute the conclusions of that assessment.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Has the statement of compatibility with the ECHR been placed in the Library, in the domain of hon. Members? I have not seen it and I have been present throughout virtually all the debates on the Bill and took part in the debate on this very matter. If the Minister is to refer to a document that claims that the Bill is compatible with the ECHR, at the very least we should be privy to it. It has already passed from the Bill's sponsor, on behalf of the promoter, the City of London corporation, to the Government, and such an important document should not remain as private correspondence between the sponsor and the Government and we should not have to take their assurance on the matter. We should also have the right to see it.

Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that it is generally agreed that a further debate on this subject is not likely to be in order for long. I simply remind the House that the lengths to which the promoter has gone to demonstrate compliance with human rights, including an opinion obtained from leading counsel, is a matter of record. I have shared that advice with the Under-Secretary who was on the Front Bench during our previous debate, in accordance with the invitation that she extended to me on that occasion; the Under-Secretary present this evening, the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), has confirmed that.

The promoter has complied with the relevant Standing Orders and will continue to do so. Moreover, provided that the House's authorities are content, the promoter has no objection to the inclusion of a statement on compatibility appearing on the front of the Bill when it is reprinted, even if that is not a requirement of the revised Standing Orders when reprinting is undertaken. I am conscious of the Standing Order that will come into force on 27 November 2001.

I have to say in a gentle voice to Labour Members that the advice that the Government receive that enables them to say that a Bill is compatible with the appropriate convention is not subject to scrutiny in the way that has been described.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I am not persuaded that the matter can continue to be pursued on a point of order. In view of the procedures that have now been followed after exhaustive earlier debate, it is a matter for the House to determine, at the appropriate moment, whether it is satisfied with the statements that have been made. That can be dealt with in the further proceedings of the House. There is no further point of order for the Chair.

Mr. Corbyn: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You were the occupant of the Chair during the previous debate on the question of the Bill's compatibility with the ECHR. We have now heard that the document has passed from the promoter to the Government, but this is a private Bill, not a Government Bill. The Government are merely responding to it; it is the House's property.

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Is it in order that the House should not be aware of the contents of private correspondence claiming compatibility between the promoter of a private Bill and the Government, when many hon. Members are extremely concerned that the convention might have been breached by the Bill, which does not allow free and unfettered elections as required under the convention? This is an important matter concerning the role of private Bills. I do not like the rules that apply to Government Bills, but I understand them, but this is not a Government Bill.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I am satisfied that there is nothing out of order that should concern the House. This should now become a matter of debate that may influence the House's attitude to the Bill. Therefore, we should proceed with consideration of the Bill.

Clause 2


Amendment moved [11 January]: No. 7, in page 1, line 18, at end insert--
'business electoral college'' means a body comprising voters appointed under section 3(1)(c) with responsibility for electing the business voters entitled to vote in ward elections.'.-- [Mr. McDonnell.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 8, in page 1, line 19, at end insert--

No. 19, in clause 3, page 2, line 33, leave out from 'person' to second 'a' and insert--

No. 56, in clause 3, page 2, line 33, leave out from 'person' to 'ordinarily' in line 34 and insert--

No. 22, in clause 3, page 2, line 37, at end insert--

No. 58, page 2, line 37, at end insert--

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No. 57, page 2, line 37, at end insert--

No. 23, page 2, line 37, at end insert--

No. 24, page 2, line 37, at end insert--

No. 59, page 2, line 41, at end insert--

No. 29, page 3, line 18, at end insert 'subject to subsections (1C) and (1D) above'.

Mr. McDonnell: At the weekend, we all filled in our census forms. When mine asked who I work for and what my job entails, I said that I work for my constituents and that my job is to represent their interests and to legislate in their interests. Tonight, we have the opportunity to legislate in the interests of all of London, and that is why I have tabled the amendments. We have the opportunity now to retrieve this flawed Bill--some would say fatally flawed--to save the Bill from itself and to rescue the City of London corporation, whose promotion of the Bill has been unacceptable, both in Committee and now. We are now in our third year on the Bill, during which time there has been ample opportunity to respond to the amendments, which were before the House previously.

I wish to rescue the Bill's chance of instigating a proper reform of the City of London corporation. The amendments seek to institute a reform to enable all those who live and work in the City--and, yes, who possess property--to have a say about their environment and community. I accept that the City is not only a single community, but many communities. The amendments seek to reflect the complex, diverse and yet interdependent communities that the City comprises. That includes the residents, the workers--the "employees" to whom the amendments refer, who spend their working hours in the City--and the businesses that occupy or tenant the City area.

The amendments are compromise proposals that could allow the Bill to pass through the House in a form that would make the new structure of local government and the governance of the City of London corporation so robust that it would render the City sustainable for another 800 years. They are a compromise. I recognise that they move away from the principle of one person, one vote, and accept that a business vote will continue in the City.

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I understand that some of my hon. Friends will be anxious about such a compromise, but the amendments also ask for a compromise from the City of London corporation and the Bill's supporters in the House. Although they accept the continuation of the business vote, they also ask for an acceptance of workers' right to vote for the City of London corporation. That is a compromise that would not achieve what I would like--the establishment of a soviet in the centre of London--but which would balance the different communities: the residents, business and workers.

I ask the City of London corporation to advise its representative--some would add the words "on earth"--the right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster, the Bill's sponsor, and its friends in the Government, to accept these compromise amendments and to let the Bill soar on to the statute book. Failure to accept the amendments will mean that one of the key communities in the City--employees and workers--will remain disfranchised. It creates the wealth on which the City's reputation is founded, but it currently has no voice.

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